White Sox spoil return of Daniel Norris; Tigers no-hit for six innings in 2-0 loss

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Chicago — He’s thinner. The beard is cropped tighter. Maybe the fastball velocity isn’t what it was a few years ago.

But the compete-level, the athleticism, the pitch-ability — it was all on display Friday night. Daniel Norris was back in the Old English D, No. 44 on his back, doing what he’s always felt he was meant to do, be a big-league starting pitcher.

Tigers starting pitcher Daniel Norris throws against the White Sox during the first inning.

"The comfort level here is through the roof," said Norris, who signed back with the Tigers on a minor-league deal late in July after being released by the Cubs. "Because it's family and it always will be. I felt like this was the best opportunity to feel good again and have fun on the mound."

BOX SCORE: White Sox 2, Tigers 0

His contract was purchased from Triple-A Toledo on Friday morning and he pitched 4.2 scoreless innings in his first game back.

"I was definitely battling some emotions, just coming back and putting the uniform on again," he said. "Which was cool. I feel super fortunate and grateful just to have this opportunity to start. It's pretty special."

Unfortunately for Norris and the Tigers, Chicago starter Michael Kopech upstaged him throwing six no-hit innings and the White Sox went on to win the opener of a three-game set 2-0 at Guaranteed Rate Field. 

Kopech struck out 11 in his six innings. As has been the Tigers' theme most of the year, he bullied them with fastballs. He threw 56 four-seam fastballs with an average velocity of 96 mph. The Tigers swung at 28, whiffed on 17 and took 11 for called strikes.

"His stuff was much better across the board, but we expanded (the strike zone)," manager AJ Hinch said. "We didn't control the strike zone very well. We chased above the zone. We chased inside. His stuff was electric. It was his night. 

"But we didn't help ourselves in and around the zone."

The Tigers had two baserunners against Kopech. Akil Baddoo and Miguel Cabrera, reached on walks.

But White Sox manager Tony La Russa made the very unpopular decision to pull Kopech after six innings. Kopech didn’t pitch in 2020 and threw just 69 innings last season. He’s already over 100 innings this year with eight weeks left in the regular season.

White Sox starting pitcher Michael Kopech throws against the Tigers during the first inning.

And the most pitches he’s thrown in a game is 100. He was at 85. 

Still, the decision sat poorly with the South Side faithful, who booed and chanted, “Fire Tony,” especially after Javier Báez greeted new pitcher Reynaldo Lopez with a ringing single to right-center to start the seventh.

The White Sox broke the scoreless tie in the seven against reliever Alex Lange. After one-out singles by Yoan Moncada and Josh Harrison, and a two-out walk to AJ Pollock, Andrew Vaughn dropped a single in front of a diving right-fielder Willi Castro, scoring the two runs. 

The Tigers managed three hits total, two by Báez, and were shut out for the MLB-leading 16th time. After striking out 39 times in the three-game series against the Guardians, they fanned 14 times Friday.

"We're just carrying stuff throughout the year," Hinch said. "There's not a happy guy in that clubhouse, before or after tonight. But you still have to bring it every night." 

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Norris had made just two starts since 2019, when he made 29 starts for Ron Gardenhire’s Tigers. He made 38 relief appearances for the Tigers and 18 for the Brewers last season and made one spot start in 27 games with the Cubs.

But in his heart, he’s always been a starting pitcher.

"The chance to start is what sealed the deal for me coming back," Norris said. "There was opportunities elsewhere, but I also felt like I needed to find myself, too. The opportunity to start was very attractive."

He unleashed his full repertoire Friday. He was throwing his four-seamer (89-92 mph) up in the zone and his two-seamer down. With his much-improved slider and changeup, he was working the east and west quadrants.

He allowed four hits and two walks, but he induced six ground-ball outs including two double-plays.

"I told him on the mound when I took him out that I was proud of him," Hinch said. "It's not an easy task to come back to an old team as a new team and then facing an all right-handed lineup. But he just continued to put up zeros. 

"He had good stuff. It looks like he cleaned up some stuff over the plate and he attacked."

And did we mention the athleticism?

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In the fourth, Eloy Jimenez topped one down the third-base line. Norris bolted off the mound, scooped it up in front of third baseman Jeimer Candelario and in the same motion spun and threw to first base.

Jimenez beat it out, but it was an incredible play.

That inning ended with Norris snaring a liner hit right back at his head by Moncada, saving a run.

"I definitely didn't have my best stuff, but no matter how you are feeling — a little jittery or whatever — just compete every pitch," Norris said. "I felt like I did a good job of that. No matter what I threw, I threw it with conviction. 

"There were nerves, totally. I'm not going to BS you. There were a lot of emotions. But I just tried to lock in and compete. Maybe I didn't feel the best but I had a lot of fun competing."

Norris will get at least one more start, tentatively set for Wednesday at Cleveland.


Twitter: @cmccosky